Here are some things you probably know about Henry Ian Cusick. First, he’s famous for playing Desmond Hume, whose story line involves the most tear-jerkingly romantic episodes in all six seasons of the epic TV series Lost. His Lost character was Scottish, so you might know that he’s, well, Scottish. He shot Lost in Hawaii for five years (2005 to 2010), so you might not be surprised that’s where he now lives. He’s married with three children. If you’re a fan you probably know he bailed after the first season of the Shonda Rimes mega-hit Scandal but has been on the sci-fi series The 100 from since 2016. And you might even know that he has a new TV show coming out called “The Passage,” an apocalyptic sci-fi series on Fox in which he plays a doc working on a cure for all diseases that kind of backfires.
What you might not know is that he was born in Trujillo, Peru, to a Peruvian mother, Esperanza Chavez, and Scottish father, Henry Joseph Cusick, and spent more than a decade of his early years in Spain and on Trinidad and Tobago before settling in Scotland at around 14. Yep, he speaks fluent Spanish and loves ceviche. So has his Peruvian-ness had an impact on his career? Not just yet.
“I’ve always wanted to do Latino, Spanish speaking roles,” the 51-year-old actor tells CHICA. “It’s kind of weird because my name is Henry Ian Cusick, everyone just assumes that I’m Scottish and I’ve never really felt like I’ve been given the option to play Hispanic characters… I’ve never had that opportunity. I don’t know why that is.”
Indeed, scrolling through dozens and dozens of his TV and film roles on IMDB, one cannot find a single Latinidad name.
“I do find it frustrating that people label you not only on how you look but your name,” he says, noting that his sister is named Marialena. “I guess they need to see me standing next to my mom to go ‘Oh, you are Latino.’”
Cusick, friendlier and more grounded than one might assume of someone with his success, was a good sport as he answered questions about Latinx representation in showbiz. He notes that throughout his career, diversity in the industry has improved significantly, but “still, we don’t see enough.”
One of the trends he noticed however is that more and more people he meets are bicultural, with “strange accents” like him, people who are “all mixed up.” This, he emphasizes, is a good thing.
We admit, Cusick’s South American heritage isn’t the biggest secret in the world. And it’s possible to find interviews with him published en Español.
In 2016, hot off his new Scandal role, Cusick spoke about his love for his birth country’s cuisine as part of a promotional campaign for tourism: “Peruvian food is an explosion of colors, of different flavors and smells…. It comes alive in the market of Surquillo. This market is the heart and stomach of Lima. Local fish, fresh vegetables and grains are sold fresh and even prepared and served by the sellers themselves,” he says. In the same interview he remembers his cousins competing to see who could make the best pisco sours, when he was old enough to try them.
In 2007, Cusick gave an interview to a Spanish-language outlet in which he recounted what he remembered from a trip back to Trujillo and Lima when he was 10. “The things that stayed with me the most were the ceviche and the anticucho, dishes that I have not been able to eat again. Then there are things that have remained of the stories that my mom has been telling me, like the typical dance of Trujillo, the Marinera.”
After attending the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, which he never finished, Cusick became a professional stage actor in Glasgow and got awards for work in the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival in his early acting days.
His first major appearance on screen was in 2003 when he played Jesus in director Philip Saville’s film The Gospel of John released in the U.K., the U.S. and Canada. In 2005, he was cast in the second season of Lost and the rest in history.
We sincerely hope that Cusick gets an opportunity to play a Latino character and use his Spanish on screen. If he does, as we now know, no one will be able to accuse the casting director of the typical Hollywood whitewashing.
In the meantime, check out Cusick’s decidedly non-Latinx character Dr. Jonas Lear, on the premiere of The Passage, Monday January 14 at 9 p.m.
Edited by Michael Quinones